LIVING IT UP

The suite life at Toyota Center is an experience unlike any other

Getting your photo taken with Elvin Hayes? Check. Courtesy photo

Every fan should enjoy at least one game from a corporate box in their lifetime. That is the valuable lesson I learned at the Toyota Center last night as the Rockets dominated the Bulls 118-86. It was the first time I had attended a Rockets game and honestly, I was a little disappointed in the gameplay. I feel like everyone wants a great game from the sporting events they attend and well, it was a such a dominant performance by the home team that I hardly felt the need to focus on the court below. But maybe that’s a good thing. Otherwise I might not have fully enjoyed the luxuries around me.

First of all; just looking at the suite from the outside felt a little strange. It’s a very unassuming door that looks like it could be for any office in any corporate building anywhere in Houston. I had to read the number on the side of the door like I was looking for Bill Lumbergh’s office. But once I crossed the threshold; my goodness it was like I walked in late for an office party. Scant decorations, and a minimalist couch and table setup gave way to a larger wet bar area with catered food against a side wall. Let’s just say that first impressions aren’t everything.

I completed my entrance and shook hands with the kind folks who provided the tickets and off I went into the great beyond of sports watching. As I lifted my glass of whiskey and looked out at the court unobstructed I realized how great this was going to be. I saw the score and watched a couple of runs up and down the court before returning to a conversation that was easy to have without the noise of the crowd, only to be interrupted by calls to get my items from the dessert cart (of which there were many) before the lady left for the other suites. I chose a caramel toffee blondie but because of a misplaced sign had a piece of red velvet cake handed to me. It was covered so I had two desserts. Hooray for me!

I set my cake aside on the counter without worry that it would be swiped and returned to my drink, the game, and the conversations of the moment. The Rockets were holding a lead of more than 20 points. With all that was going on around me, why watch the game? It was much more fun to shake hands with Houston legend Elvin Hayes, who had just stepped into our suite for an appearance. I took pictures and said hello before he was on to his next gig, but you could feel the importance of where you were just by his presence.

Now the Rockets were pushing a 30-point lead and the wife and I headed to the seats just outside the corporate booth while we ate our fajitas and nachos. The view was amazing and because it was a suite there was a direct, unencumbered view of the court. I’ve never had seats like that at any sporting event in my life and I have sat near the sideline on more than one occasion. Even those seats had someone or something obscuring the view at least a little bit. This time there was none of that.

With the game safely in hand we returned to the suite for the final minutes. It was then that we discovered we had the opportunity to shoot a free-throw on the court after the game. I was shocked because I didn’t believe it could get any better, but it did. I signed that waiver like it was a million-dollar life insurance policy and waited eagerly for our escort. I was hoping we would get a couple of shots but hey, even one was nice. I got two anyways because I haven’t shot a basketball in a long time and my first one hit the front of the rim and bounced right back. I missed the second one too but I didn’t care, it was worth it.

I am profoundly changed as a sports fan. How can anyone watch a game any other way? Catered food: check. Great view of the game: check. Decent liquor: check. Star athlete appearances: check. Post-game free throw: check. My goal in life is now to find any way I can to be rich enough for a seat like that for every sporting event I want to see.

Or maybe I just dream about it while I sit with some of the biggest and best fans who pay whatever they can afford to cheer on their team as often as they can, having only the memory as their special perk. Yeah, I think that’s the one that excites me more.

 

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The Houston Texans have just a couple of practices before their preseason debut. Here are 11 observations from Tuesday’s workout.

1.The offense stunk on Tuesday. It was inconsistent and resembled more of last year’s disappointing performances than any other practices in this training camp.

2. Davis Mills and his receivers had a few miscommunications on Tuesday. Mills sailed a pass to nobody when he and Brandin Cooks weren’t on the same page. There were some other throws to nowhere in the day. It was something that hadn’t been present at all in training camp to this point.

3. There were a few “good coverage” notes on Tuesday. Not to say there was one specific player, but a handful of team-level efforts that led to the note.

4. It wasn’t all wrong from the offense. After a pass to nowhere Davis Mills and the offense bounced back. It was a second down during a team drill and Mills fired a pass to Chris Moore for six yards. Rex Burkhead would pick up a first down on a rush a play later. A non-positive play last year on first down doomed this team. That hopefully won’t be the case for this year’s team.

5. Chad Beebe is going into his fifth season in the NFL, his first with the Texans. The former Vikings pass catcher has flashed a few times in training camp. He has an uphill battle being new to the team but is trying to make himself a factor.

6. Phillip Dorsett had a big catch over the middle. Davis Mills stood back and delivered as the offensive line held up and Dorsett reeled it in for a huge gain. No defenders were around him. It is between Dorsett and Chris Moore for the chance to be the slot wideout opening day. With Dorsett’s return to practice, it is becoming a fun camp battle.

7.Speaking of returns to practice, Tytus Howard was back. Howard has his reps managed and after practice, offensive line coach George Warhop Howard was “getting his wind” back. When Howard was having his reps managed rookie tackle Austin Deculus played at right tackle. Deculus looks much more consistent than minicamp and OTAs.

8. Kenyon Green is still out with an injury. It is getting to a critical time where the time missed might prevent the first-rounder from starting week one. Max Scharping hasn’t looked bad in his chances with the first team. Offensive line coach George Warhop said they believe in Green and his ability and he has been in meetings to stay up to date.

9. Ka’imi Fairbairn was perfect in one of the special team periods. He drilled all five kicks, each further than the last, and was crushing the football.

10. Derek Stingley was very sticky in some early reps on Nico Collins. The third overall pick is so smooth when he is working. Later his coverage forced a throw from the offense that had no chance of being completed.

11. The play of the day was made by Derek Stingley. The offense was about five or six yards out of the end zone needing a touchdown to win. With six seconds left on the clock, any completed pass that wasn’t a touchdown was game over. Davis Mills dropped back a step and fired to Nico Collins who Stingley covered. The rookie kept the second-year player out of the end zone to earn the defense a win. This was one of the better Stingley days and he did a lot of work. At one point, it looked as though he and Rex Burkhead had some words and almost led to an offense and defense scuffle, but it stayed to just some shouting. The rookie shined today.

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